R807 Fall 2018 How We Think and Solve Problems
Thursdays, 9:40–11:05, Sept. 20–Oct. 11
Instructor: James Sanford
This course will focus on three broad issues: (1) what concepts are and how we form them, (2) how we represent and solve problems, and (3) how we make decisions. Our mental concepts are more than the sum of a set of features. For example, our concept of “apple” is more than the combination of “red,” “edible,” or “grows on trees.” There are central and peripheral members of concepts and categories (e.g., “apple” is more central to the “fruit” category than is “pomegranate.”) Also, we tend to think using a basic, or middle level (“apple” rather than a general “fruit”) or a specific level (“red delicious apple”). Concepts can also be metaphorical (“moving up” implies improvement; “moving down” implies the opposite). Problem representation refers to how we mentally map the elements of a problem, while problem solution refers to our mental manipulations of the elements. Decision-making often involves using mental shortcuts. We will finish by discussing how thinking processes change with age.
Jim Sanford is an OLLI member and a professor emeritus at Mason, from which he retired in 2014 after 41 years teaching in the Department of Psychology. His research dealt with issues in memory. He earned his PhD from Kansas State University.